(Cellar Music Group CM060922. Album review by Mike Collins)
The phrases ‘Grammy award winning artist’ and ‘debut album’ are not usually found together in introductions. Vicente Archer has shown himself to be exceptional throughout a garlanded career however, and this first release under his own name after 25 years of being a ‘go-to’ bass player is well worth the wait.
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Archer dips into the repertoire and spirit of some of the top rank artists with whom he’s collaborated and reworks them with Gerald Clayton on piano and Bill Stewart on drums. Pat Metheny’s Message to A Friend, Nicholas Payton’s It Take Two To Know One, Jeremy Pelt’s 13/14 all get an examination and the relaxed R&B groove exemplified by Robert Glasper hovers behind one or two of Archer’s originals. Stewart and Clayton also contribute tunes and the result is a set of 10 pieces, characterized by a focused, often muted, intensity.
The opener Mirai sets the tone. Clayton and Stewart take up and decorate quietly pulsing stroked chords from the bass. The device of a repeating harmonic or rhythmic motif is used a few times in the set and the three consummate musical painters sketch and develop atmospheres and ideas. There’s no grandstanding, but the playing is unfailingly perfectly judged even as they ease through deceptively complex pieces. Clayton’s Round Comes Round is introduced by a casually tumbling angular solo piano that then spools out over a relaxed groove, somehow hinting at all kinds of jazz styles.
There are absorbing duo exchanges. Lighthouse sees Archer weaving bass melodies and improvising around an insistent single note rhythm from Clayton. It Take Two To Know One is an account of Nicholas Payton’s piece with the melodic phrase sketched by Archer and an extended exploration and exchange between the bass and Stewart. 13/14 is a loose, swinging piece with Clayton stretching out, Message to A Friend a hymn providing a moment of distilled lyricism and Archer’s Bye Nashville a lazily funky, bluesy riff allowed to roll on.
It’s very tempting to leave this album on repeat. As the title tells us, these are mainly short pieces, but they are more than sketches. The intensity and focus with which Archer, Clayton and Stewart play make each one a musical story.
LINK: Pre-Order – Short Stories is released on 9 June